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Working with young people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder

Beginning work as a teaching assistant

Working with children and young people was never a priority or interest for me. After a few months of working in a job elsewhere, I decided to apply for a job as a teaching assistant in an agency. This gave me the opportunity to start a new career within the mental health field. The first job I had was in a school specialised in children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Despite, studying psychology and knowing theories related to autism, the environment I was placed in was a whole new world to me.

My journey in working with special needs – where I am now 

As an agency worker, I did not have a fixed class, so I was floating for a few months. In the beginning, that was a bit stressful, as every day I had to learn how to act with different students and classes having particular routines. Consequently, I really struggled to find my way to communicate effectively and, mostly, get the patience needed to work there. You need a lot of patience if you want to work in special needs!

After a few months within a class, I realised how useful it was to have previous experience in other classes.  Furthermore, I learned skills and tools that helped me be better at my job. As days passed, I found I was increasingly enjoying my time working within the school, I eventually got offered a permanent position and I still work at the school to this day. 

Parents’ stigma around their children and lack of information 

When you work with children and young people, you focus on the child however, you must consider their environment, and this is, mainly their family. One of the most interesting things I found is the stigma that some parents can have about their children’s condition and the lack of information available to them. Special needs is a “big world” and not two children are the same, you cannot compare their development or achievements. Having “autism” is not just a diagnosis. Whoever knows a person with special needs/autism knows that you have to learn about their condition and the best way to approach them. 

Some parents can overprotect their children or underestimate their abilities. A better understanding of autism spectrum disorder is crucial to understand and help any child/young person on the spectrum. 

What have I learned? 

The list of things I have learned and keep learning every day is forever growing. One of the things I have learned is how different we are and how enriching that is. How nice would it be if we lived in a world where we all tried to understand each other, no matter who we are? I wish I had all the information that I have now. I hope we can all learn and support each other.

Our Guest Blogger: 

Huge thanks to our guest blogger Ana for sharing her experience and journey of working with young people who have autism spectrum disorder. 

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